08 November 2012

Martinmas Approaches: the Perfect Patron for the Christian in a Pagan World

November 11 is the Feast of St. Martin of Tours. Unfortunately, Martinmas does not get the same play in the U.S. as it does in many European countries. But, as this timely article from Crisis Magazine reminded me, he is a great model and intercessor for Catholics in today's societal cesspool.

There are many cool customs for the feast-- of course, Catholics like to celebrate! Here is a page over at fisheaters with a write-up on the life of St. Martin and some of the customary ways to celebrate the feast. Why not invite a local blogger to your home for a dinner of roasted goose?

St. Martin's Feast is considered the first day of Winter for practical purposes, so, alluding to the snows of that season, the Germans say that "St Martin comes riding on a white horse." Of course, it might not feel like Winter if one is experiencing a "St. Martin's Summer" -- the equivalent of an "Indian Summer." It is said, too, that one can predict what sort of Winter one will have by the conditions of St. Martin's Day: "If the geese at Martin’s Day stand on ice, they will walk in mud at Christmas."

The Feast coincides not only with the end of the Octave of All Souls, but with harvest time, the time when newly-produced wine is ready for drinking, and the end of winter preparations, including the butchering of animals (an old English saying is "His Martinmas will come as it does to every hog," meaning "he will get his comeuppance" or "everyone must die"). Because of this, St. Martin's Feast is much like the American Thanksgiving (celebrated on the 4th Thursday in November) -- a celebration of the earth's bounty. Because it also comes before the penitential season of Advent, it is seen as a mini "carnivale" with all the feasting and bonfires. As at Michaelmas on 29 September, goose is eaten in most places (the goose is a symbol for St. Martin himself. It is said that as he was hiding from the people who wanted to make him Bishop, a honking goose gave away his hiding spot), but unlike most Catholics, those of Britain and Ireland prefer pork or beef on this day.

In many countries, including Germany, Martinmas celebrations begin at the eleventh minute of the eleventh hour of this eleventh day of the eleventh month. Bonfires are built, and children carry lanterns in the streets after dark, singing songs for which they are rewarded with candy.

The photo above from Wikipedia shows some Dutch children marching with their paper lanterns. May we all have a blessed Martinmas and pray to this great Saint to be examples of Catholic faith and virtue in a godless world.


Father G said...

We used to celebrate it when I was serving in France...
I have a better idea...why don't you invite me over for a nice dinner of roasted goose?!

thetimman said...

No problem-- are driving down from dairyland Sunday?

Father G said...

No...I wish I was but I'll let you know when I do...;-)